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Knowledgespeak Exclusive: An interview with Jacks Thomas, Exhibition Director for the London Book Fair - 12 Apr 2013

Q

Knowledgespeak: Can you briefly talk about the forthcoming London Book Fair? Please share with us any interesting events / trends that you expect to see during the event.

A

Jacks Thomas: The London Book Fair 2013 (LBF) – which is in its 42nd year – is one of the world’s leading trade fairs for the publishing industry. Over three days of the Fair publishers, agents, authors and anyone interested in global publishing come together to make book deals, sell Intellectual Property rights, network and learn from each other.

The London Book Fair is always packed with interesting events that cater to the needs of the publishing industry. This year, we’ve seen the industry changing in so many ways, from consolidation at the top, new start –ups and digital innovators bringing fresh perspectives into our industry, and consumer partnerships altering how we define our content. We’ve worked to open the Fair out to as many of these new professionals involved within the publishing industry as possible including self-published and fledgling authors, suppliers, bloggers and App designers.

Open Access is still one of the hottest topics out there for the academic publishing sector - and the discussion at Academic Publishers: Open for Business (Mon, 11.30 Cromwell Room EC1) is bound to get heated.

I’d also suggest Fair visitors attend The Charles Clark Memorial Lecture, Copyright licensing: fit for the digital age (Tue, 4pm, Earls Court Conference Centre). Copyright is a perennially important (and occasionally contentious) issue for our industry. The keynote speaker is Richard Hooper, the Government's digital copyright advisor.


Q

Knowledgespeak: Turkey is the Market Focus country this year. Please comment on the objective behind “Selecting the Market Focus country” every year. What is the process involved and how has this served its purpose?

A

Jacks Thomas: Publishing is an international business and The London Book Fair’s role, as a business-to-business fair, is to showcase new markets to the publishing sector. Our new markets are selected by an advisory board and based on feedback from our exhibitors and visitors. As Turkey has become one of largest publishing markets by volume in the world it is obviously of great interest to UK and international publishers who wish to learn more about this significant market, and its young, literate population.

In putting together the Market Focus programme, The London Book Fair and The British Council always work with the host country/organisation and consult with many bodies including official partners, industry professionals, and experts in the field. The Market Focus initiative is now in its tenth year and has done much to open doors, creating both commercial and cultural partnerships around the world since it was first introduced by The London Book Fair in 2004.

The objective of the Market Focus is to put the spotlight on publishing trade links with the country or region that is showcased, highlighting its publishing industry, and the opportunities for conducting business with the rest of the world. And it is very successful. Bloomsbury now works in China, India and Qatar as a result of previous programmes and last year’s Author of the Day from China, Bi Feiyu, signed with Penguin.


Q

Knowledgespeak: The Digital Minds Conference has become a must-attend precursor to the Fair. Can you briefly tell us about this conference scheduled to be held a day prior to the beginning of the Fair. What are the key issues that will be discussed?

A

Jacks Thomas: I’m so glad you are looking forward to the conference! For me it is one of the highlights of the Fair. This year Digital Minds – the Future of Publishing Content will explore the issues publishers must resolve in this integrated digital environment: discovery in a world of shrinking physical shelf space and the urgent need for direct reader engagement. We’ll be looking at issues as varied as the changing role of the editor, the impact that digital has on publishing and author brands and branding, and the continued debate over self-publishing and hybrid authors. There will also be discussions on key business model trends, means of reader engagement and those emerging markets which content providers must have a handle on.


Q

Knowledgespeak: You have an interesting panel of speakers lined-up for the conference. Can you give our readers some highlights from the schedule?

A

Jacks Thomas: Neil Gaiman will be giving the key note speech at this year’s Digital Minds Conference, and I think this really will be an unmissable event for anyone with an interest in online communities and author branding. Neil is a pioneering author -- one of the first author bloggers, he has made himself a digital phenomenon, with an incredible 1.8 million followers on Twitter. I am delighted that he has agreed to give a keynote speech at Digital Minds – his success and expertise exemplify everything we hope to explore at the conference.

I’m also really keen to see the panel event on business model trends (11.30,Churchill Room) which will be chaired by the brilliant Rosie Goldsmith, who will be joined by an impeccable line up of speakers: Eloy Sasot,(HarperCollins) Richard Nash (Small Demons) Rebecca Smart (Osprey Publishing) and Mellissa Norman(Digital Business Strategist). I can’t wait to hear how the industry is changing, and how we are looking to grow profit within the sector by using new models.


Q

Knowledgespeak: How, in your opinion, have the needs of information-consumers evolved in the recent years? How is the London Book Fair evolving accordingly?

A

Jacks Thomas: Well, we are all online all the time these days! It will come as no surprise to your readers that greater numbers of information consumers are consuming content on the go, on mobile and tablet devices, and expect immediacy. They want their information fast, across multiple platforms and formats, and they want to access it wherever and whenever they want.

At The London Book Fair we have tried to create an exhibition which provides industry professionals with the tools and insights they require to best facilitate the needs of their consumers – however tech savvy or otherwise they may be. That’s why we programme events across the sector, and ensure our Love Learning seminar programme, which has over 250 events this year, has something for everyone attending the Fair.


Q

Knowledgespeak: The manner in which information is disseminated has changed dramatically over the years, especially for those in the business of publishing content. E-readers are such a rapidly changing field now with almost a new device being released every week. How, according to you, have e-readers and tablet computers redefined the way content is accessed?

A

Jacks Thomas: It’s important to remember that as much as format is changing, the publishing business is still driven by great content. As to how changing formats are redefining the industry, I am delighted to welcome exhibitors from across the industry from top publishing houses, e-reading providers such as Kobo to digital start-ups and this really is a question for you to come to the Fair and put to them! I’d encourage you to visit our ever expanding Digital Zone and attend events across the Love Learning seminar programme and in the Digital Theatre on the show floor. They will discuss these topics and many more, and we relish creating this platform for the industry to debate and learn.


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